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Israeli researchers expect serious COVID cases to drop below 500 soon

Forecast from Hebrew University points to an optimistic trajectory for current wave of pandemic, finds recent case spike is due to increased testing among kids

An Israeli woman receives a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit clinic on September 1, 2021 in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
An Israeli woman receives a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit clinic on September 1, 2021 in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Researchers at Hebrew University told the government Friday that they expect the number of patients in serious condition due to the coronavirus to drop significantly in the coming weeks.

In a forecast submitted to the National Security Council, the researchers speculated that the number of serious cases would drop below 500 in the next week or two. There were 667 such patients as of Friday afternoon, and that number has gradually gone down in recent days, while total cases have risen.

But the researchers said the spike in cases was mostly a result of increased testing efforts among children ahead of the school year that started this week, rather than indicating that the pandemic was spiraling out of control.

A drop in serious cases would serve to legitimize government policy. Despite daily numbers soaring to rates not seen at any previous time during the pandemic, officials have not ordered a lockdown, relying on third vaccine doses to flatten the curve of the current wave and using the data on serious cases, rather than total cases, to make decisions.

In more good news, the researchers noted that the infection rate among those above the age of 40 was in a decline for the first time in months, crediting the ongoing campaign to distribute booster shots. The R number, the basic reproduction number of the virus, dropped below 1 for people over 40 this week and it has been below 1 for those over 60 for the past two weeks. The government began distributing booster shots to those over 60 first. Any R below 1 — meaning carriers on average infect less than one other person — indicates the pandemic is shrinking.

Earlier Friday, the Health Ministry reported 11,210 new coronavirus infections the day before. Israel has now recorded over 10,000 new cases for four straight days. Thursday’s figure was slightly below the daily record of 11,265 infections confirmed Wednesday.

A man receives a vaccine in Jerusalem, on August 24, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite surging infections, serious cases have begun falling since peaking at 753 on Sunday, with the Health Ministry reporting 667 people in serious condition from COVID-19 complications as of Friday morning.

The positive test rate Thursday was 8.43 percent, the highest it has been during the current wave of morbidity.

The death toll stood at 7,122, with 13 fatalities recorded Thursday.

The Health Ministry also reported 6,005,150 people have received at least one vaccine dose and 5,501,924 of them have gotten two shots; 2,493,222 have been administered a third dose.

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